The “Lonely Little Blue Macaw* – the last known survivor in the wild
Since 2001, the South American Spix Macaw is considered by many to be extinct in the wild primarily attributed to the fact that these valuable birds were captured for the illegal bird trade. In the 20th Century, wealthy collectors paid up to $40,000 for them on the black market. Nowadays, captive birds are worth several times that amount.
Destruction of their preferred habitat also contributed to their declines.
The reviting story of this last wild “blue macaw” inspired the animated movie “Rio,” in which the main characters “Blu” (the male) and “Jewel” (the last female to have survived in the wild) are paired up to save the species from extinction. Even though these parrots are referred to as “blue macaws” throughout the movie, the ornithologist Túlio Monteiro mentions this species’ scientific name once.
The mystery of the last wild Spix’s Macaw
The last surviving Spix’s Macaw lived in a little area of woodland in a place called “the Melncia Creek” in north-eastern Brazil, where this species of parrot appeared to have been particularly attached to the tall caraiaba trees that grew along the creeks.
DNA feather testing executed by the Oxford University determined that the last survivor was indeed a male, as had been assumed. This male Spix had paired up with a female Blue-winged or Illiger’s Mini Macaw (Primolius maracana).
Paul Roth noted that the male would escort his mate each night back to her roosting site, before returning to his own.
Subsequent rescue efforts involved re-uniting the last wild male with a female of his species to avert imminent extinction of this species. One captive female believed to have been part of this male’s former flock was released in the area where the lone male was found. Soon the female and male Spix’s Macaws, as well as the female Blue-winged were seen flying together. Unfortunately, the released female Spix’s Macaw perished without yielding any young as had been hoped.
At the end of 2000, the last living survivor in the wild had disappeared — and even though the official story was that he had likely perished because of “old age” or possibly had fallen victim to predation; there are rumors of him having been captured in response to an order having been placed for him by a wealthy Middle Eastern bird collector.
Others blame his loss to mining activities that had been authorized and commenced in its native range. The resulting disturbances could have prompted him to leave the area. The possibility of the mining activities having caused his loss was vehemently denied by Brazilian authorities, likely because they didn’t want to be linked to the loss of something that had grown to be a national treasure by authorizing the mining activities within its home range. Since he disappeared while the mining activities and associated infrastructure changes were going on, one could also raise the question whether members of the incoming workforce either hunted or captured him. Nobody really knows …
The mystery of what happened to the last surviving macaw may never be known. He has been the focus of conservation groups for a decade; and has piqued the interest and imagination of so many people that a movie was inspired by him and an entire book was written about him, as well as countless news articles.
Whatever happened to the “lonely little blue macaw” (as he was commonly referred to) is likely to remain a mystery.
The small number of surviving birds kept in captivity are amongst the most valuable and protected birds in the world.
Please refer to the Spix Macaw species page (Overview) for information on numbers and conservation.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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